This exercise is a pushdown done in a very particular way—lying on an incline bench, facing away from the pulley. It takes all of the possible cheating out of the exercise and forces a monster contraction of the triceps on every rep.
The setup is very straightforward—all you need is a high pulley, a pulley attachment (the straight or cambered bar works best) and an incline bench. Set the incline to about 45 degrees; then set the bench in front of the pulley facing directly away from the pulley.
Lie on the bench, reach back overhead, and grasp the handle with an overhand grip. Bring the bar down until your elbows are at your sides and the bar is at upper-chest level. That mimics the start position of a regular pushdown, though your triceps are already under greater tension trying to keep the bar at that start position.
From that starting point, do a full pushdown movement, bringing the bar forward, down and around in an arc, squeezing the triceps hard as you puff out your chest.
When you get to the bottom and your arms are straight and locked out, try to push them even farther down toward your feet to maximize the contraction on the triceps. Hold and squeeze the triceps hard for a few seconds here.
Let the bar up slowly, stopping when it’s about level with your forehead.
This variation of the pushdown is extremely effective because the angle and direction keep your triceps under constant tension throughout the entire movement. Your triceps never get a break. They will be, almost literally, screaming by the end of the set.
Lying on the incline bench also removes the lower-back stress that can occur with the traditional standing pushdown (especially when done with heavier weights). In this version the weight actually forces you down onto the bench rather than sending torque into your lower back.
In addition, the position of your arms and body at the bottom results in an extremely powerful contraction of the triceps.
For a unique variation try pushing the bar away from your body as though you were doing a press. That adds a very different and beneficial element of tension to the triceps.
When fully developed, the triceps are eye-catching muscles. A thick set of well-defined horseshoe triceps command attention. This exercise will carve those out for you. I like to use it either as a finisher (after the heavier pressing work is done) or as a preexhaust exercise, performed immediately before a heavier press.
Editor’s note: To get a copy of Nick’s Muscle Explosion—28 Days to Maximum Mass, visit his Web site, www.28DayMuscle